January 2019 Wrap-up!

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January is finally over! I’m not one for wishing time away but this has been one LOOONG month. And sadly, I didn’t read as much as I had hoped to in all this time. Going back to work and uni took its toll on my reading time, plus I’ve had a lot of headaches that have stopped me from reading even when I’ve had time. But the books I did read were, on the whole, fantastic!

Let’s take a look!


Review Books

The Turnaway Girls by Hayley Chewins

My first read of 2019 was this delightfully feminist middle-grade book. I loved the vivid descriptions and, of course, the musical subject matter was right up my street. There is some great diversity here and some surprisingly dark moments. A great start to the year!

 

Cuckoo by Sophie Draper

The first thriller I read this year is one of the best I’ve ever come across. This is a slow-burning and mysterious book, with heaps of atmosphere and plenty of twists and turns. I particularly loved the inclusion of the dark fairytales throughout the book.

 

The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola

A slow-burning, Gothic read, this one was incredibly absorbing. Mazzola did a great job of portraying a moment in history and all the misogyny that accompanied it.


Books from my TBR

The Wicker King by K. Ancrum

I read this with the Dragons and Tea Book Club and I’m so glad I did. This is a fascinating book focusing on a mental health topic that is not often explored. I loved the format of the book and found the whole thing so clever. And getting to ask the author questions on Goodreads made it an even more special reading experience!

 

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

I felt such a connection with this quiet little book. I’m still thinking about the characters long after finishing it. Brunt tackles the subject of the AIDS epidemic with such tact. She has created a work of beauty in this book and I want everyone to read it.

 

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

I read this book with my own book club this month and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I had been nervous about it as Beauty and the Beast retellings are starting to get a little overdone, but I loved the wintery Russian vibes in this one!

 

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

This was one of the books I read for the 24in48 readathon and I really enjoyed it. It’s classic Gaiman, both dark and whimsical, with fantastic characters and moments of real wit.

 

Your Turn to Die by Sue Wallman

Another book I read for 24in48, this was the only book I read in January that I didn’t enjoy. It felt extremely juvenile and there was nothing memorable about it, other than the animal cruelty.

 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

My final read of the month was certainly a powerful one. I’m glad I finally picked this one up. I felt much more of a connection to it than I expected to, thanks in part to the author’s skill at writing dialogue. So deserving of the hype.


Rereads

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon

I only managed one reread this month and it was this book that I haven’t read since my school days. It was fun to go back and remember what was so good about this book, as well as seeing how far we’ve come in the discussion about autism in the last few years.


Stats

Total pages: 3385

Average pages per day: 109

Longest book: The Hate U Give (438 pages)

Shortest book: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (268 pages)

Favourite read of the month: Tell the Wolves I’m Home

Biggest disappointment of the month: Your Turn to Die

Male authors: 2

Female authors: 8

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Well, that was January! How many books did you manage to read this month? What was your favourite? Let me know in the comments! And thanks for reading xsignature (2)

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‘The Hate U Give’ spoiler-free review!

 

thug review

Yes, I know. I’m ridiculously late to the party with this one. But with Angie Thomas’ new book, On The Come Up, coming out in February, I figured it was finally time to read her debut! And it deserves every bit of hype.

Let’s check it out!


synopsis

“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.


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I’m not sure what I can say about this book that hasn’t already been said. It is one of the most powerful books I have ever read and I totally understand why it has become such a huge phenomenon in the book community.

Obviously, the subject matter here makes this an incredibly heavy read. In fact, I could only read it in short bursts and had to intersperse it with other books for a bit of light relief.

I was worried initially that I wouldn’t be able to connect with the story (and please do not read anything racist into that before I explain!) The book is very dialogue-heavy which is not something that usually works for me. Add to that the fact that I had distanced myself from this book for so long due to the hype and hopefully you can understand why I was nervous.

Thankfully, Thomas writes dialogue REALLY well and I found that it really drew me in, adding to the intensity of the book. Further to this, the family and peer argument scenes in this book were so bloody realistic. I actually felt my heart beating faster and my breathing quicken as if I was right there in the thick of everything.

After thinking about the ending, I’m quite pleased with how things wrapped up. It would have been very easy for Thomas to take things in a different direction and I don’t think I would have been satisfied with it if she did. As it stands, I found the ending powerful and emotive – especially with the author’s note that follows. It’s easy to see why this book has had such an impact. The Hate U Give is clearly a very important piece of literature in the Black Lives Matter movement and I, like Angie Thomas, hope that one day we can look back and say that the issue has been eradicated.

thug

Of course, my final rating can be nothing less than 5 musical notes!  5 notes


So most of you have probably read this one by now, right? What did you think of it? Are you planning on reading On The Come Up? And do you like my new rating system?! Leave me a comment below! Thanks for reading xsignature (2)

My favourite blog posts of January 2019!

Well I don’t know about anyone else but January felt like it lasted forever to me. However, let’s try to be positive about it – this means there’s been even more quality blog content from all of you!

Also, *drumroll* please… I’ve finally made some blog graphics! I think hehe. I’m trialling the first of them in this post so please let me know if there are any problems with them or they aren’t showing up properly! I’m not technically savvy at all but I’m trying my best to make my blog look prettier 😀 So they may vary as I figure out more of what I’m doing!

Ok, let’s do this!

favourite blog posts of the month


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Kristin reviewed The Radium Girls, which sounds fascinating. I’m looking to read more non-fiction this year and this title has jumped firmly into a high position on my list!

Steph wrote a lovely review of Tin Man – I’ve heard really good things about this one!

Melanie displayed her wonderful reviewing skills yet again and made me even more desperate for The Winter of the Witch!

Rae reviewed an ARC of The Night Tiger which sounds very intriguing!

Beth reviewed Convenience Store Woman. I’ve been hearing a lot about this one and it sounds really good!

Ashleigh reviewed The Priory of the Orange Tree and convinced me that I need this book in my life.

Esme wrote a lovely review of The Weight of a Piano, which sounds perfect for me!

Merline reviewed The Kingdom of Copper and got me even more hyped!

Kelly wrote a great review of Paper Girl, which I love the sound of!


favourite discussions

Nyx asked if the length of a book matters. This felt like a timely post as one of my reading goals for this year is tackle some of the bigger books on my shelf that have been intimidating me!

Melanie talked about why she feels frustrated with YA novels. I’ve noticed my own reading tastes starting to change recently so I found this an interesting post to read.

Marie raised the question of whether book bloggers need a reading schedule, which I found hugely relevant!

Rita reacted to the Marie Kondo controversy and addressed the issue of purging books.

Aurora talked about why she is a bad book blogger and made me feel so much better for how rubbish I can be too!


other fun posts

Ally wrote a great recommendation list of diverse historical fiction.

Jenna did the ‘Pick Me Up Playlist’ tag. I love this idea and I’m definitely going to do this one myself!

Lorryn recommended books with bipolar, schizophrenia and personality disorder rep – and you know I’m looking for more mental health reads!

Margaret asked her family to choose her TBR, which I thought was a fun idea.

Cait revealed the cover for The Boy Who Steals Houses and I am so excited!

Charleigh celebrated her birthday and listed her ultimate favourite books.


Well, there you have just a small selection of the posts I’ve loved this month! Be sure to check out any that pique your interest and spread the blogging love 🙂 

And please PLEASE leave me a comment below if you can offer any feedback on my graphics! Thanks lovelies! xsignature (2)

‘Your Turn To Die’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone! This weekend, I’ve been participating in the 24in48 readathon and one of the books I read was Your Turn To Die by Sue Wallman. Let’s take a look at it!


your turn to die

What the book is about…

Sue Wallman’s most spine-tingling thriller yet! Every winter, three families gather in an old house to celebrate the New Year. This year, 15-year-old Leah and the other kids discover that the house has a dark past. As they dig into the history, terrible things start happening, and if Leah isn’t careful, this New Year might be her last.


What I thought of it…

Well, I haven’t read Wallman’s other books but if this is the most spine-tingling yet then I don’t think I’ll bother. If I’m totally honest, I wasn’t expecting this to be anything amazing. But it was even worse than I thought it would be. I didn’t enjoy it at all.

The characters were completely flat, with no distinguishing features or personalities. I only read this yesterday and I’ve already pretty much forgotten everyone. For teenagers, their behaviour throughout the entire book came across as completely juvenile; I could not imagine real teenagers acting the way that these characters did. I also thought that the dialogue between them read unrealistically; it did not feel natural in the slightest.

I found the plot boring and highly predictable to a point – and then the final twist was so farfetched that I wanted to throw the book across the room. It’s like everything that had been building up from the start was completely disregarded for this big twist that left me feeling a bit cheated. Though I have to admit to skimming the last 100 pages so something might have slipped past me (but I doubt it).

Also, that poor dog. The author lost me when the dog was fed chocolate and it only got worse from there. Major trigger warning for animal cruelty. I wouldn’t normally say anything like that for fear of spoilers but if you have any inclination to read this (and I don’t see why you would but it’s possible), you need to be prepared. The treatment of the dog turned my stomach.

Do yourself a favour and just skip this one. Life is too short to waste time on bad books!

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Has anyone else read this one? Do you push on when you’re not connecting with a book or do you DNF? x

‘Hunted’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone! Last night, I finished Hunted by Meagan Spooner, which was my book club’s pick for this month. For some reason, I was nervous about reading this one and wasn’t sure I would like it (Beauty & the Beast retellings are getting a little overdone after all) but I needn’t have worried!


What the book is about…

hunted

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?


What I thought of it…

Spooner has done a great job with this one. What could have been just another generic YA retelling is actually far more original and compelling thanks to the inclusion of Russian folklore. I’ve always been a sucker for Russian-inspired fantasy so as soon as I realised that’s what I was in for, I comfortably settled in for the journey.

The wintery aesthetic in this book was gorgeous. Give me all the snowy books please and thank you. Even though the book’s setting was quite limited, I thought the author did a great job of conjuring it and I could really picture everything that was happening. I believe this is in part due to the inclusion of a lot of sensory detail – sounds, smells, textures all added dimension to the story. 

Spooner’s writing is very readable. It is easy to become swept along in the narrative and the fact that the reader knows information that the protagonist, Yeva, does not makes things very interesting.

I also really enjoyed getting some snippets of the Beast’s perspective, as this is not something I’ve seen often in retellings. His narrative voice felt strangely reminiscent of Frankenstein’s monster, both in his moral conflictions and in the articulate way he expressed himself. It was fascinating to read Yeva’s hatred and thirst for revenge on the one hand and see the Beast’s struggles on the other; Spooner did a great job of balancing things and making the reader question their feelings towards the characters.

I have to say that the hate-to-love trope, which can sometimes annoy me, was VERY well done in this instance. The author handled the situation in a way that felt far more believable and plausible than other Beauty and the Beast retellings I’ve read.

I also want to give points for the disability rep; while not a huge part of the book, it was nice to see it included.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. It is a compelling story which builds to an immensely satisfying conclusion and I would definitely recommend this one if you are a fan of fairytales or of books set in the wilderness of Russia!

hunted

Have you read this one? What did you think of it? What are some of your favourite fairytale retellings? Let me know in the comments! x

Authors I discovered in 2018!

Hey everyone! I missed Top Ten Tuesday last week but I really liked the topic (and I already posted something similar to this week’s prompt so I decided to just swap things a bit!) Why not, eh? 😉

I discovered some amazing authors in 2018, some of whom became new favourites and that I really want to read more from this year!


Lucinda Riley

Lucinda Riley is quite a prolific author but my introduction to her work came through her Seven Sisters series. There are currently five books published in the series, with another two due, and I honestly have not been so excited about a series since Harry Potter was first released! The plot is so clever and intricately woven, with amazing characters and stunning settings. I have given five stars to every book in the series so far.

Books I’ve Read

 

Books I Haven’t Read


Christina Henry

Christina Henry is one of the authors I discovered last year who has become a firm favourite. Her super dark retellings give me life. I’ve read two of her books so far with another three on my TBR for this year. I don’t know if I’m interested in Henry’s backlist, the Black Wings series, but I’ll definitely be picking up anything she writes in future.

Books I’ve Read

 

Books I Haven’t Read


Susanna Kearsley

Kearsley was an author who was on my radar for a long time. Her books always sounded like something I would enjoy. However, it if wasn’t for my book club picking The Winter Sea last year, I might still not have tried her. Hooray for book club, it ended up being one of my favourites of the year! I can’t wait to read more of her books and already have three on my TBR shelf for this year.

the winter sea

Books I’ve Read

 

Books I Haven’t Read


Margaret Atwood

I know, I know. It took me a ridiculously long time to jump on the Atwood bandwagon. But I’m here now and in it for the long haul!

Books I’ve Read

 

Books I Haven’t Read (plus like a million more but I couldn’t fit them all in here!)


Daphne du Maurier

I finally sampled the queen of the Gothic in 2018 and I will definitely be continuing my journey with her. Rebecca is a masterpiece.

rebecca du maurier

Books I’ve Read

 

Books I Haven’t Read


Helen Fields

I have talked about the Perfect series before and I am currently up to date with it, yay! The fifth book comes out this year and I am READY.

Books I’ve Read

 

perfect crime

Books I Haven’t Read


Neal Shusterman

Scythe was another book club pick and I loved it. It was so original! And the sequel *might* just be better than the first book. I can’t wait for the trilogy’s conclusion this year!

Books I’ve Read

 

Books I Haven’t Read


Sarah Addison Allen

Allen’s books seem to just be really sweet, nothing too mind-blowing but cute, fun reads, which is sometimes exactly what you need. And she’s only written 6 books so it shouldn’t be too hard to catch up!

Books I’ve Read

 

Books I Haven’t Read


Katrina Leno

Magical realism is one of my favourite genres and this book handled a difficult subject really well. I’d love to read more of Leno’s books soon.

summer of salt

Books I’ve Read

 

Books I Haven’t Read


Christina Lauren

Autoboyography is another book that became a firm favourite last year. I’m not a huge romance reader but I’d still be interested in reading some more books from this dynamic writing duo.

autoboyography

Books I’ve Read

 

Books I Haven’t Read


Wow, this post took HOURS to compile! Ugh, the self-doubt is strong today; I’ve stressed myself out about this post and I’m not even overly happy with it. Oh well. We can’t love them all, I guess. It was still fun to look back at the authors I discovered in 2018!

Have you read any of these authors? If so, can you recommend which of their books I should try next?! Leave me a comment below! x

‘The Story Keeper’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone! Today is my day on the blog tour for The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola. I’m so grateful to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to read this one.


What the book is about…

story keeper

Audrey Hart is on the Isle of Skye to collect the word-of-mouth folk tales of the people and communities around her. It is 1857, the Highland Clearances have left devastation and poverty, and the crofters are suspicious and hostile, claiming they no longer know their stories. Then Audrey discovers the body of a young girl washed up on the beach and the crofters tell her that it is only a matter of weeks since another girl has disappeared. They believe the girls are the victims of the spirits of the unforgiven dead. Initially, Audrey is sure the girls are being abducted, but then she is reminded of her own mother, a Skye woman who disappeared in mysterious circumstances. It seems there is a link to be explored, and Audrey may uncover just what her family have been hiding from her all these years.


What I thought of it…

This Gothic mystery was an absolute delight to read. I immediately fell in love with the setting of Skye, with the author conjuring a perfectly gloomy picture that truly transported me. The atmosphere was practically dripping from every page.

It is not often that I am so absorbed by a book that I am never distracted by my phone or things going on around me. This one did it. Seriously, every line held my attention; I was captivated.

This is a wonderful portrait of a moment in history. Finding out in the author’s note that this book was based on real events added an extra level of awesome. Anna Mazzola has done a great job of capturing the misogyny of the era and the difficulties women would have faced.

The Story Keeper is very slow-burning (something which didn’t bother me but that other readers should bear in mind). Events in the novel unfold at a glacial pace but I enjoyed the creeping feelings of tension and the slow reveal of information.

Honestly, this book hit all of my buzzwords: an atmospheric setting, unreliable narrator, ambiguity and intrigue, and dark fairytales. If any of these things tick your boxes too, then you should definitely give The Story Keeper a try!

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To find out more about this one, check out the other stops on the tour! x

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‘Tell the Wolves I’m Home’ spoiler-free review!

Hello everyone! Last night, I finished Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt so today I’ve got a review for you 🙂


What the book is about…

tell the wolves im home

1987. There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life–someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.

At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.


What I thought of it…

I knew right away that this was going to be a special book. I instantly connected with the writing style and I knew it was going to have a powerful emotional impact on me.

Brunt’s characterisations were so well done. I really sympathised with June and felt a little bereft when the book ended and I was no longer in her head. Her sister, Greta, who starts out seemingly vile, has some of the best character development and I really came to understand her and why she behaved the way she did. The author did such a great job of making her characters feel real.

Another thing Brunt did amazingly well was capture how ignorant people were about AIDS in the 1980s; it was genuinely hard to read. I know that’s the way things were but gosh, it was tough to see it in black and white on the page in front of me.

I did have a slight issue with the fact that the book kept talking about AIDS being ‘given’ to a person. Technically, it’s HIV that is passed between people and AIDS just results from that; you don’t infect someone with AIDS. I’m seriously nit-picking but it did grate on me a little each time it came up because it’s not wholly accurate. However, even with that, this is a 5-star book for me.

This was such a quiet and gentle book. There is a vein of poignancy running throughout and you would have to have a heart of stone to not be affected by it. Brunt has written a story of such raw beauty and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

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Have you read this one? Or any other books about the AIDS epidemic? I’d love to read more books about this topic if you have any recommendations! x

12 Books I MUST Read in 2019!

Hey everyone! I’ve mentioned before that one of my goals for this year is to read more of my backlist books. As part of this, I’ve made a list of 12 books that I have been saying for YEARS “oh I must read that soon” – seriously, I just never seem to pick these ones up and I don’t know why. So I’m making this post to hold myself accountable. By the end of 2019, I will have read all of these books!


thug

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas


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Perfume by Patrick Suskind


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A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab


master and margarita

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov


jonathan strange

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke


girl with all the gifts

The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey


white teeth

White Teeth by Zadie Smith


lake house

The Lake House by Kate Morton


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Here I Stand by Amnesty International


flawed

Flawed by Cecilia Ahern


uprooted

Uprooted by Naomi Novik


geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden


Have you read any of these books? Which one do you recommend I start with? Also, I’ve floated the idea on Instagram of a readalong of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, as so many people seem to have it on their shelves but feel intimidated by its size. Let me know if that’s something you’d be interested in?! x

‘Cuckoo’ spoiler-free review!

Hello everyone! I just finished Cuckoo by Sophie Draper, which was sent to me by Avon Books – and I loved it! Let’s jump straight in…


What the book is about…

cuckoo.jpg

There’s a stranger in your house…

When her stepmother dies unexpectedly, Caro returns to her childhood home in Derbyshire. She hadn’t seen Elizabeth in years, but the remote farmhouse offers refuge from a bad relationship, and a chance to start again.

But going through Elizabeth’s belongings unearths memories Caro would rather stay buried. In particular, the story her stepmother would tell her, about two little girls and the terrible thing they do.

As heavy snow traps Caro in the village, where her neighbours stare and whisper, Caro is forced to question why Elizabeth hated her so much, and what she was hiding. But does she really want to uncover the truth?

A haunting and twisty story about the lies we tell those closest to us, perfect for fans of Ruth Ware and Cass Green.


What I thought of it…

I’m gonna come out and say it straightaway: this is one of the best thrillers I’ve read. Cuckoo is slow-burning and mysterious (I fully acknowledge that some readers won’t enjoy that style and will want something more fast-paced, but I really love books that are written in this way).

The book has a great atmospheric opening. I could really picture the dreary autumn day and the rain lashing against the windows of the quaint village pub. The vivid descriptions of the setting continued for the book’s duration; it was great to be able to picture everything so clearly, as thrillers often leave out this kind of detail. The farmhouse was almost a character in itself, which I have mentioned in the past is something I love in a book! At one point, the protagonist Caro is snowed in and this lends the story such a claustrophobic feel. The atmosphere leaps from every page.

The unique selling point for this book is the inclusion of various dark fairytales scattered throughout the plot. While this may sound strange, it works SO well and really adds to the book. Draper’s writing is really quite creepy at times and there were some nights I couldn’t read it before going to bed! I’d say that Cuckoo almost borders on horror in places.

This book hooks you in immediately and doesn’t let go, twisting and turning right to the very end. And I mean, RIGHT to the end. It never lets up. But it does it in a slow, creeping way that ensures you are feeling everything right along with Caro.

I will be keeping an eye open for more of Sophie Draper’s books!

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I hope you’re all having a wonderful January so far and a great start to 2019! x